Showing posts with label cats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cats. Show all posts

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Short Story #53: Ship of Shadows by Fritz Leiber

Title:  Ship of Shadows

Author:  Fritz Leiber

Summary

Book cover:  Bill Fawcett - Cats in Space (1992) - Fritz Leiber's Ship of Shadows
Spar awakes from a nightmare about witches and vampires and meets a talking cat named Kim who may or may not be a witch-cat..  He has trouble remembering where he is from, he has no teeth, and really bad eyesight.  He works in a bar that's on a spaceship called the Windrush and believes as many others do that it is in fact, the universe.   With the help of the cat, he swears off moonmist, an intoxicating drink.  The bar is a popular place for drunks and some other questionable folks like Crown who has his harem of women and is constantly  abusing people around him.  Spar eventually gets mixed up in some events surrounding the disappearance of a bag that belongs to the Doctor but that Crown is claiming to be his.  Spar returns the bag to the doctor and the doctor helps him by providing him with fake teeth and glasses.  All the while, he's finding out that things are not what they appear to be--with the bar, with Crown and his harm, with everyone else, and with the ship itself.  His prying eventually leads to his capture by Crown and his harem who look to drink his blood along with other people but at the last minute, Kim comes to the rescue with others.  When all is said and done, it is revealed that Kim was sent to retrieve Spar and another character and help them remember who they were and to get the ship to join with another ship.

Reflection

Blah.  That's my initial thought about this story.  It felt like a lot of work for very little return.  This was a long short-story (about 40 pages) and felt like it was too underdeveloped and probably should have been a book.  You get the answers you need by story's end but they feel a bit empty after wandering so long within the story without much sense.  It's funny while I really liked this other Leiber story, this one felt like it was trying to hard to be something more than it was.

Short Story #53 out of 365
Rating: 2 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  2/20/2014
Source:  Cats in Space and Other Spaces, edited by Bill Fawcett, Baen Books, 1992.  The story can also be found on this website.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Short Story #52: Well Worth the Money by Jody Lynn Nye

Title:  Well Worth the Money

Author:  Jody Lynn Nye

Short Story #52 out of 365

Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)



Book cover:  Bill Fawcett - Cats in Space (1992)
Date Read:   2/18/2014
Source:  Cats in Space and Other Spaces, edited by Bill Fawcett, Baen Books, 1992.

Summary

Balin Jurgenevski along with two others volunteer to take an experimental spaceship to deliver and pick up goods at a space colony.  The spaceship was a dual project between humans and a friendly alien race but it's not quite clear how easy or likely it will work so the 3-person crew is being offered a whole lot of money to try it out.  Once aboard, the three find that the ship practically takes care of itself and they have little work to do besides take care of the ship cat, Kelvin.  The ship's operating system has user profiles for each person and thus, prepares, delivers, and checks in on the specifics of each person.  One day, they decide to create a user profile for Kelvin and sure enough, the ship's adaptive program begins caring for and working with Kelvin.  During one of the jumps, the crew end up in a dangerous part of the galaxy where a known race of alien blobs regularly seeks to do them harm.  An alien ship arrives and starts to attack with a beam that paralyzes the humans but Kelvin is still free.  The ship's computer works with Kelvin to fight the other spaceship and destroy them.  The rest of the mission goes well and they all speak on Kelvin's behalf as an official crew member.  

Reflection

A fun story overall.  It seemed clear pretty early the direction that it was going but it still was a good ride (pun intended).  The dynamics between humans and cats made sense and were humorous.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Short Story #51: Schrödinger's Cat by Ursula K. Le Guin

Title:  Schrödinger's Cat

Author:  Ursula K. Le Guin

Short Story #51 out of 365

Rating: 5 (out of 5 stars)



Book cover:  Bill Fawcett - Cats in Space (1992)
Date Read:  2/17/2014
Source:  Cats in Space and Other Spaces, edited by Bill Fawcett, Baen Books, 1992.  The story can be found at this website.

Summary

The story begins with the narrator explaining a need for cooler and slower places and how a cat appeared and has come to sit on her lap.  She reflects on the nature of everything around her being in various ambiguous states or not doing the things that they are supposed to to be doing.  There is a clear instability and lack of clarity to the world around the narrator (who isn't even sure who she/he is).  She begins to focus on the cat and what it means to be a cat.  Someone knocks at the door and enters.  Though originally, she thought it was the mailman, she decided it was a dog--and it is a dog.  The man-dog sees the cat and says that it's Schrödinger's cat and the two proceed to explain who that is and why it matters.  As to two talk, the cat walks over and leaps into a box.  When the narrator goes over to open it, the cat has disappeared.  Just after they open the lid to the box and note the cat's absence, the roof is torn off the ceiling and they are left pondering, "I wonder if he found what it was we lost?"

Reflection

Finding the rhythm of this story is a bit challenging.  It is quite surreal.  While the first few sentences make some kind of sense, three sentences in, we're given this doozy of a passge:  

"On the way here I met a married couple who were coming apart. She had pretty well gone to pieces, but he seemed, at first glance, quite hearty. While he was telling me that he had no hormones of any kind, she pulled herself together and, by supporting her head in the crook of her right knee and hopping on the toes of her right foot, approached us shouting, "Well what's wrong with a person trying to express themselves?" The left leg, the arms, and the trunk, which had remained lying in the heap, twitched and jerked in sympathy. "Great legs," the husband pointed out, looking at the slim ankle. "My wife had great legs.""

The story continues with these various asides and comments that gives the story a very Kafkaesque vibe to it.  Of course, unlike Kafka, we end up with some means of explanation.  They are all in the box of someone else's experiment.  In that regard, I found Le Guin, whom I'm liking more and more (and maybe have to seek out more of her short stories).  That the chaos of the narrator's thoughts become a clear sense of order to the reader once we understand the dynamics of thought and perception in relation to Schrödinger's Cat is well executed and reminds me of why literature can be so invaluable to people to help make sense of things (or not make sense of things--hahaha).

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Short Story #50: The Tail by M.J. Engh

Title:  The Tail

Author:  M.J. Engh

Short Story # out of 365

Rating:  2 (out of 5 stars)

Book cover:  Bill Fawcett - Cats in Space (1992)
Date Read:  2/16/2014
Source:  Cats in Space and Other Spaces, edited by Bill Fawcett, Baen Books, 1992.

Summary

This very short story is told through the first person view of a cat who tries to explain to the reader about the nature of a cat's tail.  He explains the different ways the tails work and are essentially a separate identity from the cat itself.  The two are in an eternal struggle with each other.  Shortly after this explanation, the cat recalls his most recent travails wherein the tail caught him off guard which led his humans to laugh and enraged him do battle with his tail and eventually subdue his tail.  However, he still eyes his tail questioningly.

Reflection

The story was all right.  Again, like other cat stories in this anthology, it opens up some interesting views of cats and their tails but it wasn't particularly too engaging.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Short Story #49: Space-Time for Springers by Fritz Leiber

Title:  Space-Time for Springers

Author:  Fritz Leiber

Short Story #49 out of 365

Rating: 4 (out of 5 stars)

Book cover:  Bill Fawcett - Cats in Space (1992)

Date Read:  2/15/2014
Source:  Cats in Space and Other Spaces, edited by Bill Fawcett, Baen Books, 1992.  The story can also be found on this website.

Summary

Gummitch has a theory about himself.  As soon as he becomes mature, he will morph into his true human self and sit at the adult table with his true parents and drink coffee.  He is a genius but doesn't yet know how to speak human but once he does he will ascend to his proper place in the family.  His cat parents never learned to talk as such and therefore are left to be accepted as cats but his other siblings, the human baby and toddler named Sissy will eventually transform into cats.  But something's odd about Sissy and her repeated attempts to kill the baby and do other harmful acts.  Gummitch also believes in the mirror universe that he peers into every time he sees a mirror or reflective surface.  This world is filled with mere shells of the people who live in Gummitch's world, but desire to enter the real world.  So Gummitch must be careful with his ghost-self.  One night, Sissy sneaks into the baby's room where Gummitch often rests and he witnesses her bring a sharp object into the room and she has an evil look in her eyes.  Gummitch knows what's happening and leaps at Sissy, throwing his spirit into her to knock out the evil that is present.  As his spirit moves into Sissy, the ghost-Gummitch moves into Gummitch's old body.  The parents come in to see what's going on and with Sissy crying, Gummitch is sent to the basement for a few weeks.  When he comes out, he is aloof and less playful than when he was prior.  Sissy, on the other hand, becomes less violent and excels as a young child.

Reflection

This was a rather ingenious story by Leiber, who I'm growing to like more and more.  This is the second or third story I've read by him and I can understand why others find his work so prominent within the science-fiction and fantasy realms.  What was fascinating about this tale is how Leiber creates easy explanations for kitten and cat behavior as part of their attempt to become human as well as develop a lively world through the eyes of Gummitch.  We get a sense of what he sees and how he sees it (in so much as it's a projection of what we think a cat sees) but it is delightfully curious.  Leiber's best trick is that he introduces everyone as cats so it takes you a little bit to figure out who are the humans and who are the cats.

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What I Learn from My Cats Part #1

Yes, we knew it was going to happen.  At some point, I would blog about my cats.  I'll reserve rambling on about how adorable they are--we all know there are hundreds of pics on my Facebook that illustrate this truth.  Instead, I want to talk about what my cats have showed and taught me over the last 18 months since they first came into my life. To be sure, I haven't had any epiphanies per se, but I've definitely found my perception informed by my interactions and caring for them.

First, let me introduce them.

PUMPKIN
Pumpkin is a short-hair Persian cat.  I got her in August, 2011.    As you can see from the picture, she as a "smooshed" face.  This can make her look both wonderfully adorable and somewhat perpetually grumpy (which then feeds into her adorableness).  She's a small cat, weighing in at about 7 pounds.  She's also a bit more timid and skitish.  I think this in part comes from her size and her lacking snout.  She doesn't appear to have the capacity to be a good fighter and regularly loses in her (playful) tussles with Bear.  Her smooshed face means, she doesn't have particularly great jaw strength and an extremely small nose also interferes with her ability to smell as well as other cats. She is not a cat that will do well out in the wild.

BEAR
I don't know Bear's breed; I'm guessing "mutt."  I was given her by a friend in June, 2012.  She's all black, which apparently are the least liked.  Yet, I find her an absolute delight and maybe all of this black cat crossing my path is actually accumulating good luck.  At ten months right now, she comes in around 9-10 pounds.  Of course, when she pounces on me, it can feel like 30-40 pounds.  She's still in her kitten stage in many ways.  She's continually playful with me and Pumpkin.  She continually wants to be on my lap or near me when I'm sitting or lying down.  She's also a headbutter, which I absolutely love.  When I come home at the end of the day, she will find the nearest counter to me and get up so she can headbutt my chin and purr--loudly...like a motor boat.  She's also has determined (and achieved) herself to be higher in the hierarchy than Pumpkin.  This is apparent when I may be lying down with Pumpkin on my chest and Bear comes in and nudges, paws, or pushes Pumpkin out of the way so that Bear and sit on my chest.

What I've Learned

First and foremost, I've learned how awesome cats are.  They get such a bad rep by many and growing up without any cats, they were unfamiliar.  My only experience would be with street cats that would run away and/or hiss.  Friends' cats never seemed entirely friendly and I always felt like an intruder in their presence.  But first Pumpkin and then Bear relieved me of such thoughts.

Who knew that they had such distinct personalities and quirks?  Well, besides everyone whose ever had one, right?  They do entail different means of interaction.  Bear is always underfoot and next to me, wanting my undivided attention, except when she's sleeping.  Pumpkin is more elusive.  At times, she's a bit skittish and if I move towards her, she darts away.  At other times, she roams the apartment crying out for my attention until she finds me.  She looks up at me with that adorable smooshy face and lets out a cry that just melts my heart.

She's done this enough that Bear too seems to have learned the trick and regularly cries out to me.  I think that was one of the biggest surprises.  I knew that cats meowed and a friend of mine even had a cat that downright talked when scarfing down her food.  But both Bear and Pumpkin cry out for me regularly to get my attention.  In fact, Bear does this when even when she is two feet away and as best as I can interpret it, it seems to be a cry for attention because as soon as I start petting her or holding her, she goes right into hyper-purr mode with a purr that sounds like a motorboat.

Both have a great inquisitiveness that's fun to watch.  They are naturally curious creatures and are continually trying to figure things out.  Even though Pumpkin is less bold than the fearless Bear (except when Bear's scared by the vacuum cleaner--no joke--she hides and trembles with terror), they both are constantly exploring within the apartment and anything I bring in.  Pumpkin is cuter in this regard. As she explores any new or questionable terrain, she's very light-footed and is constantly sending out a tentative paw to explore before stepping forward.  It's cute to see

As predators, their desire to be in control of the situation encourages them to find higher ground in the apartment.  I've found them on the fridge, on top of a wicker cabinet (they climb up this all ninja-like), atop a doorway gym, and atop a very narrow ledge of cabinet door.  I keep waiting for the day I come home to find them swinging from the ceiling fan (Gremlins style) or somehow have broken through the ceiling tiles and are wandering the netherworld between my ceiling and the apartment above's floor.

People assume that because cats are not dogs, they lack intelligence on the level that dogs do.  I don't know that I buy this as I find my cats are intelligent and much more manipulative than most dogs I've met.  My mother is quite amusing with my cats.  Early on, she got frustrated because they were not as responsive to her or won't let her hold them when she wants to hold them.  So her response to this has been to give them treats every time she comes to visit them.  What this did to the cats was to train them to associate her with treats and so when she does visit, they instantly bother her for treats (hanging out in the area she regularly delivers the treats).  Thus, they have taught her to give them treats.  Bear and Pumpkin may not roll over but they know how to purposely manipulate the world around them.  Pumpkin and Bear know that if they want my attention when I'm at the computer, they need to come directly into my eyesight and thus, stand in front of my screen.  They know if they want me to play they need to make a noise or distract me with a mess of some sort.  They may lack the obedience of the dog but they are quite intelligent as far as I've seen.

Pumpkin may be older and at least initially was bigger than Bear (Bear is now bigger), but Bear quickly established herself as higher on the hierarchy of the household.  She is constantly by my side and when I lie down at sit down, she is right onto my lap.  Occasionally, Pumpkin may get onto my lap when I'm sitting or onto my chest when I'm lying down to sleep, but Bear always arrives and chases her away to assume her position.  This happens with treats too in that  Bear assumes the right to all treats and then, if there's any left, Pumpkin can have the leftovers.  The only time I see a variation with this is the dry-food feeder.  I do wet food in the evening (to which Bear always takes first dibs).  But when the automatic dry-food feeder goes, Bear always stands back and gives Pumpkin first dibs before jumping in.  It's a curious switch given all the other times Bear seems to be the dominant figure.

Ok, that's it for now--there will be more to come, but these are the thoughts occupying my mind right now.

My 3 Favorite Internet Cat Videos


Scientific Proof that Cats Are Better Than Dogs


Cat Person, Dog Person

Cats Talking


#OwnedByCat
So I've taken to posting to the hashtag: #ownedbycat on Twitter about the different experiences and rules one learns as his or her cats come to adopt their human.  Most are silly, but occasionally, I might have a deeper thought of 140 characters.  Here's a Twitter widget for those interested in seeing some of those thoughts:



Questions about Cats

  • What is the headbutting all about?  Is it just their form of greeting?  I also wonder if it's a degree of comfort.  I usually have facial stubble so I wonder if it feels good for Bear or just is a sign of greeting and affection.  (Pumpkin doesn't do this and doesn't seem a big fan when I do it).
  • In my bathroom, I have a small linen closet next to the shower.  Every time, I go into the shower, Pumpkin insistently goes into that linen closet and onto the second shelf.  Every time, without fail.  I have to wonder if that's where  she does her deals with the Russian mafia.  What's that all about?
  • Pumpkin constantly scratches at the ground around where she goes the bathroom and where she eats.  In fact, she'll do this for up to 10 minutes after the fact.  Anyone have any ideas why?  Is she just a bit neurotic?  


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.